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Full text of "Flora Indica Vol-I"

INTRODUCTORY  ESSAY.                                179
uninterrupted, and are accompanied by dense'fogs and a satu-
rated atmosphere. This weather indeed prevails throughout
the year, as there are frequent winter rains, which are gene-
rally accompanied by cold fogs, and alternate with frost and
snow. March and April are the driest months, and in fine
seasons are often bright and clear, but the rains commence in
May, to continue with little intermission till October. The
bounding mountain-chains are very lofty; and snow-clad
throughout a great part of their extent, but the central range
which separates the Rangit from the Tista is depressed till
very far in the interior. The river-valleys are also consider-
ably depressed, but less markedly so than those of western
Bhotan. The rainy winjls have thus free access to the heart
of the province, and sweep almost without interruption up to
the base of Kanchinjanga (28,178 feet), the loftiest mountain
and most enormous mass of snow in the world. The snow-
level is here about 16,000 feet. Between the two principal
sources of the Tista, however, the Lachen and the Lachung, a
lofty snowy range is projected; and as this chain has a south-
west direction, and is moreover sheltered to a considerable
extent by the boundary chain between Sikkim and the Tibetan
valley of Chumbi, we have in these valleys a rapid diminu-
tion of the rain-fall ,and an equally rapid transition to the
Tibetan climate, while the level of -perpetual snow rises to
above 18,000 feet.
Prom the level of the sea to an elevation of 12,000 feet
Sikkim is covered with a dense forest, only interrupted where
village clearances have bared the slopes for the purposes of
cultivation; and there the encroachment of the forest is with
difficulty prevented by frequent fires and the incessant la-
bour of the villagers. The forest consists everywhere of tall
umbrageous trees; with little underwood on the drier slopes,
but often dense grass jungle; more commonly however it is
accompanied by a luxuriant undergrowth of shrubs, which
renders it almost-impenetrable. In the tropical zone large
Figs abound, with Twminalia, Vatica, Myrtacea, Laurels,.Eu-